Overview of a Bachelor’s in Game Design
If gaming is your first love and you'd love to make it your job, you may be thinking about a career as a game designer. Although it sounds like a fun and easy profession the fact is there's a lot of hard work involved, and you should plan on earning at least a bachelor's degree if you want to achieve success. This will not only introduce you to the basic knowledge you will need, but also give you a leg up on those who only have certifications or an associate. Once you start gaining experience in the field, and maybe a few certifications of your own, your resume will look great no matter what kind of position in the field you’re applying for.
Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s
There are certificate programs in gaming you can earn without a degree and, like a degree program, they have both pros and cons. On the good side, you'll get a solid exposure to the field and that may help you decide whether game design is the career for you. Some certificates are available at the high school level, so you won't have to pay for what you learn. On the other hand, a certificate won't help much with entering the field of game design, and the classes you take may not transfer to your college degree program. If you're considering a certificate program look for one that is accredited and accepted for college credit in a bachelor's program.
What Game Design Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
Game design is a relatively new field and, as such, the degree program titles can be confusing. Some schools don't have programs specific to game design but offer it as a concentration in their graphic design program, while other schools may offer a similar concentration under the umbrella of computer applications. It's a good idea to look at all design and computer programs and look for concentrations and specializations as well as game design courses within the curriculum.
For the most part, Art (BA) degrees will give you more leeway in the choice of electives while Science (BS) degrees will have a narrow choice of electives that are within the field of game design. Look at several programs that are game design specific and compare the curriculum to other design and computer programs that have a concentration or specialty in game design to see if the vaguer program titles offer the coursework you'll need to be proficient in game design. Here's a look at a few game design program titles:
- Bachelor's in Video Game Design
- Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, Game Design Concentration
- Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, Game Design Specialization
Although each school decides on its own admission requirements, as a rule of thumb you will be expected to have a high school or associate degree grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 and submit your school transcripts with your completed application and application fee. Some schools will also require a minimum score on your SAT or ACT and a transcript of the score.
If you already hold an associate degree, there may be prerequisite courses you'll need to have completed as an associate is the equivalent of the first two years of a Bachelor program. If your associate degree is in another subject, you may have to take some introductory game design courses to meet the school requirements for admission.
Some schools require letters of recommendation, a letter of intent, and an essay as part of their admissions process. Basically, the more competitive the school the more stringent the admission requirements will be.
How long does it take to earn a Video Game Design Bachelor’s?
A bachelor degree is considered a four-year degree in that it takes approximately four years to complete if you follow the suggested curriculum schedule. You'll need a total of 120 credits to complete your degree, which is an average of 40 classes.
If you already hold an associate degree, it will take approximately two years of full-time attendance to earn your bachelor's degree. If you take half the classes per semester, it will take twice as long.
If you're still in high school, you may be able to take college courses and earn a semester or more of credits before you graduate. Most schools participate in the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) which allows you to test out of subjects you are knowledgeable in, giving you credits in place of actually taking a course such as English or algebra.
Potential Careers in Game Design with a Bachelor’s Degree
Because the game design industry is so competitive, you probably won’t be able to find a position as a game designer right out of college. You may qualify for a lower-level position within the field and then you’ll be able to showcase your ability as well as your portfolio to advance from within the industry.
It's important to note that job titles can vary within the game design industry. A smaller game studio may post a job opening for a game designer when they actually want a programmer or graphic artist, while a larger company may post the same job title when they are looking for a level designer. Look at the details of a position before responding with an application.
Here are a few positions that are typical, available entry-level jobs you can enter when you graduate from a bachelor’s degree program in game design:
- Quality Assurance Game Tester
As the title suggests, this job involves testing a game to make sure every level works the way it's supposed to. Testers keep a log of their actions, tracking bugs and errors so that the designers can fine tune the game before release. Average salary is $36,900
- Level Designer/Editor
This position typically designs the environments within a game such as the landscapes and buildings or the gameplay within a level. Depending on the size of the studio, you may be in charge of more or less. The average Level Designer Salary is $57,200.
- Junior Game Developer
A junior game developer may work on a specific aspect of a game or be charged with fine tuning a level or other details of a project. Depending on the size of the studio you may have many different tasks or be part of a team of junior developers who work under the direction of a lead developer. The average salary is $38,000.
- Game Artist
A game artist creates the art and storyboards that are incorporated into objects within a game. In a smaller studio this may be a freelance position; in larger studios you may be charged with a specific area such as weapon designs. The average salary is $50,200
Options to Advance
It will most likely take three to five years of experience working in the field before you can expect to advance to the role of game designer. Because of this you should consistently add to your portfolio and stay abreast of developments within the field of gaming. Plan to learn new techniques and platforms as soon as they are developed in order to stay on top of the latest in gaming trends.
If your ultimate dream is to own your own studio you should continue your degree to the Master's level and add basic business knowledge to your resume.
Best Bachelor’s of Science in Video Game Design Programs
Rochester Institute of Technology School of Interactive Games and Media
Rochester, New York
Rochester offers an excellent program that allows you to choose your area of specialization, so you can concentrate on game design, game art, animation, or a similar aspect of the industry. The Bachelor program is fully transferable to a master's program within the school.
- Game Design and Development BS
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
One of the best schools for video game design, USC has many professional game designers affiliated with their program to give each student mentoring as they learn all aspects of game design. Both programs integrate smoothly into graduate programs at the same school.
- BS in Computer Science – Games
- BA in Interactive Entertainment
Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
One of the top technology schools in the country, Drexel combines their computer science and digital media departments to create a comprehensive program for game design. This program is fully transferable to the graduate degree program at the same school.
- Bachelor of Game Design and Production
- Bachelor of Computer Science with a concentration in Game Programming and Development
New York University Tisch School of the Arts
New York, NY
NYU Tisch School of the Arts has a premiere game design program that fully integrates into their Master of Fine Arts in Game Design program. Students also have access to the Media and Games Network at the NYU Brooklyn campus
- Bachelors of Fine Arts in Game Design
Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT Game Lab
MIT allows students to make their own curriculum in game design, utilizing the MIT Game Lab with state-of-the-art technology and the best instructors in the country.
- Bachelor of Science in Game Design
Traditional Schools Offering a B.S. in Video Game Design
DigiPen Institute of Technology
DigiPen Institute of Technology is affiliated with Nintendo to give students the latest developments in the industry as they learn the art of game design. All programs are fully transferable to the graduate degree programs at the same school.
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Fine Arts
Full Sail University
Winter Park, Florida
High level design and production classes that cover all the key concepts of the field as well as developing a portfolio to showcase your creativity.
- Bachelor of Science in Game Design
St. Charles, Missouri
Courses cover key concepts of the field of game design as well as game economics, aesthetics, and usability. Portfolio and project development courses are included for a comprehensive curriculum.
- Bachelor of Arts in Game Design
Southern New Hampshire University
Hooksett, New Hampshire
A balanced curriculum that teaches skills and knowledge, SNHU combines computer science with animation, storytelling, and art aspects for a complete game design program.
- Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Development
Liberty offers one of the best game design programs in the country. You'll learn the technical skills as well as the artistic elements required to enter the field of game design with a well-rounded education.
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program with a Game Design specialization
Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths